Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Comparing Google Glass to Tim Cook’s “Watch” Vision

Google Glass has people wondering about the future of smart devices. Can we expect almost everyone to be wearing Glass-like devices in the coming years? Apple CEO Tim Cook has a different vision for wearable computing: Wrist devices. At the recent All Things Digital conference, he brought to light the validity of this alternative.

The Question of Aesthetics

Despite Google's best efforts, Glass does not look ordinary. One quick look and people can tell you are wearing Glass. Your day-to-day appearance is essentially impaired by wearing Glass. The product itself is attractive, but it is hard to deny that it lacks any subtlety.

A wrist device is straight-forward. It is not distracting to you or anyone else around you. Tim Cook laid this out succinctly stating, "I wear glasses because I have to. I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to."

The Wrist is Natural

Watches are no longer a common item to wear, especially for the younger generation. Cook pointed this out himself at the All Things Digital D11 conference stating, "If we had a room full of 10 to 20-year-olds and we said, ‘Everyone stand up that has a watch,’ I’m not sure anybody would stand up.”

While Cook's observation is accurate, you don't need to be a watch wearer to find a wrist device natural. Looking at your wrist is just as straight-forward as the slight look up Glass requires, and more importantly it doesn't have to be in front of your face if you don't want it to. Google Glass gives the eerie sensation of technology being invasive to our everyday lives. A watch-like device can operate as a more intuitive smartphone without getting in your way.

Convenience & Safety

What if you want to take Glass off? Just like with eyeglasses, you probably won't want to carry them folded up in your pocket. Chances are you will need to carry around a case for Glass. The naturalness of a wrist device means you probably won't mind whether it is off or on. Glass has also led people to voice concerns over privacy and safety. While Glass' limited availability makes it difficult to call it either way, it is certainly something to consider.

That Apple Touch

While Cook did not explicitly state that Apple would be going into the wearable computing market with wrist devices, their patents seem to indicate that they will. They have filed patents for a flexible display based device with a slap bracelet mechanic.

While Google is an innovative company that has come out with its fair share of great products, Apple's reputation for innovative and successful products is near legendary. If Apple were to make an 'iWatch', we can have faith that they will be able to pull it off successfully. Combine this with their current product ecosystem, and you could end up with a central controller for everything Apple – right on your wrist. We may already be seeing some hints of design innovation for a new wrist wearable design. Apple recently also filed a patent for devices with displays you can actually press. This could add an entirely new element to touch devices.

Which product will succeed?

How Apple and Google advertise to us is going to be a huge part of which one of these products garners the most success. New technology, like Glass and a possible Apple watch, is supposed to make life easier – supposed to fulfill a need. People are always looking for something, and Apple and Google are hoping they have what we are looking for.

But people don’t make decisions rationally all the time – a lot of decisions are based on emotions. Whichever product stirs the most emotion through marketing will have a better chance of winning the attention, and the money, of consumers.

Consumers are also looking to avoid risk. Yes, we are curious of new products and we love to buy, but we don’t like to think we are risking more than we will gain. Buying a new product always carries some sort of risk – that’s why people often wait to buy the second version of products, so all the kinks get worked out.

Glass seems like a product that people would wait to buy the second time around – it almost seems fragile. It wouldn’t be surprising if consumers held off on the first product and instead opted to wait for the second wave. Since Apple’s plans for a watch device aren’t exactly clear, it’s hard to say which product would come out on top – but what is clear is that if either company delves into what consumers think about when they buy products they’ve never seen before, they have a better shot at coming out on top.

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